MORE than 30 rural "micro-businesses" in the North-East are set for a share in a new £1m funding boost.
The grant fund from Defra’s rural development programme will help businesses which have less than 10 employees to develop new jobs and premises.
It comes on top of £3.2m already invested in the pilot North East Rural Growth Network.
The Small Business Growth Fund complements other support from the RGN and will support businesses in Northumberland, Gateshead and Durham.
Rural affairs minister Richard Benyon described it as “a great boost” and added: “This extra funding will provide local entrepreneurs with an opportunity to create new jobs, find new premises and come up with creative ways to help their businesses continue to grow.”
Rural enterprises will be able to apply for grant funding of between £10,000 and £150,000, while themselves meeting 60% of project costs.
Job creation projects which bring wider benefits to the local community will be prioritised for grants, with guidance and support provided.
Ted Salmon, vice-chair of the North East Rural Growth Network and chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “New and small businesses are vital to our rural communities and this will be a critical factor in helping them realise their growth potential.
“Up to 40% grant funding is available until the end of 2013 and I would definitely encourage businesses to come forward as early as possible with their project plans to find out if they are eligible.”
Fiona Cruickshank OBE, of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership board, said: “This fund will help to underpin the wider programme of support for small business growth across rural communities in Durham, Gateshead and Northumberland and bolster rural economies in these areas.
“The new scheme will help equip high-quality rural micro-enterprises across the North East LEP area with the resources to grow and compete.”
Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead form one of only five areas nationally to benefit from funding under Defra’s pilot Rural Growth Network programme.
The network was set up in September 2012 and will provide business support up to March 2015.
It is backed by a range of regional business organisations, as well as Northumberland, Gateshead and Durham Councils.